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5 Ways to Protect Your Skin from Pollution and Breakouts

Subway dust, air pollution, and the mysterious air conditioner “raindrops” that land on your face when you’re walking down the street—there’s a lot of gunk that makes our complexion less than ideal. Our skin just isn’t made for big-city living.

These common pollutants are typically made up of nano-sized particles that can wreak havoc on not only your respiratory system, but also your skin. And because they’re so tiny, they’re able to infiltrate the deeper layers, which is where damage starts to develop. There, they create free radicals that move around like Pac-Man, eating away at your precious collagen and increasing inflammation. Talk about a skin nightmare.

And it gets worse: When your skin becomes inflamed, it becomes dry and often overcompensates by producing more sebum (oil our bodies naturally create). This can clog pores, leaving skin greasy and more vulnerable to blemishes. It’s a harmful cycle that happens to the best of us.

Fortunately, there are ways you can reverse the damage and keep your complexion pure.

Cleanse regularly. Cleansing your face during the day and at night rejuvenates your skin after it’s accumulated oil during sleep (gross), and after it’s exposed to city grime and soot floating around throughout the day (grosser). Slough off air toxins that have latched onto your skin with a trusty cleanser that won’t strip your face of moisture.

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Washing your face is just the first step in combating pollution. An effective moisturizer helps your skin shed dead cells, clear pores, and reduce inflammation as it grows new cells. Our go-to is our Purifying Face Cream (001-Pu).

Gently exfoliate once in a while. The occasional scrub can deep clean your pores in places your daily cleanser can’t reach. But avoid using granular and rough exfoliators—they can create micro tears in your skin, leaving your skin more vulnerable to the effects of the environment, including pollution and sun damage. Exfoliating often can also remove necessary oils that keep your face moisturized (but not greasy!), so aim for twice a week, at most. 

Spread on a serum. After cleansing, your skin needs to rebuild its barrier against the grit and grime of the city. To repair your skin from the effects of free radicals, use a serum that’s filled with antioxidants. Antioxidants are proven to neutralize free radicals, protect your skin from aging, and defend against pollutants in the future like a super-shield.

Drink more water. If you’re thirsty, imagine how parched your skin can get after long days out and about. Downing H2O leads to hydrated skin, cell regrowth, and improved circulation, all of which are essential to keeping your skin healthy.

We can’t avoid the toxins that pollute the air (unless we stay home all day, which actually doesn’t sound that bad), but we can take steps to fix the damage and fight against city elements. So go ahead, breathe in that city air and stroll through that manhole steam: You skin will be able to handle it.